What happened to tempered, reasonable expectations? I could’ve sworn Michigan was still transitioning to a new coach and system and coming off a 3-9 season with major question marks peppered all over the depth chart. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case, as headlines like “Lloyd Carr’s support won’t save Rich Rod forever” (yes, it’s Drew Sharp, but still) and “Michigan’s downfall can be blamed on several people” (really, Angelique?) grace this morning’s local papers, while even some Michigan blogs ask questions like “Does Michigan have a quarterback?” I know yesterday was ugly, but it’s still shocking to see the exodus from the bandwagon.
We knew going in to this season to keep expectations low. With a freshman quarterback, our third defensive coordinator in three seasons, and a team coming off one of the worst seasons in program history, 7-5 sounded perfectly reasonable, and 8-4 would be a pleasant surprise. How, then, is a 35-10 loss to Penn State this cataclysmic? It’s not, period.
I admit that I was one of the fans who entertained the thought of a 9-3 season after Michigan’s 4-0 start, when Tate Forcier was still a media darling and Rich Rodriguez could suddenly do no wrong. However, look at the teams Michigan played in that stretch: Western Michigan, a Notre Dame team that simply can’t beat good teams (and no, Michigan State doesn’t count), Eastern Michigan, and Indiana, all at home. Should it really have shocked anyone that Michigan would drop two straight road games to Big Ten opponents, and follow up beating Delaware State with a loss against a much, much better (and more experienced) Penn State squad? Absolutely not.
If you asked most Michigan fans if they would accept being 5-3 at this point before the season, most would have been at least okay with it — after last year, nobody in their right mind could’ve turned down being just one win away from returning to a bowl game, and being two games over .500 is an emphatic step in the right direction. Football teams do not transform from cellar-dwellers to conference champions overnight. Anybody who expected such should’ve just kept their mouths shut after they quit on last year’s squad. I’m sick of hearing fair weather fans who think each game will determine the future of the program. It’s not like we’re losing to patsies — Iowa and Penn State are top ten (or close to it, depending on the poll) squads who were supposed to contend for conference and national titles this year, and are. Michigan State was this team’s first true road test, and they have shown that they are capable of playing much better than their record indicates. There’s no shame in losing these games — it certainly isn’t fun, but this happens to every program going through a transition.
So, thank you to the guys at Maize n Brew and Brian at Genuinely Sarcastic for keeping level heads about this, and at least acknowledging that there will be a brighter future. Tate Forcier is still a freshman, and doesn’t deserve to be bashed the way he is after we — we — built him up to a savior figure after good games against bad defenses. I still think he’ll be a very quality college quarterback, and a player that we’ll be happy to have for the next 3 1/2 years. Rich Rodriguez is still in Year Two of The Great Transition, and I still believe he’s the coach that will lead Michigan back to national prominence and, yes, national championships.
I’ll be glued to the television next weekend while we take on Illinois, and I fully expect us to bounce back from these past few games. Even if we don’t, it’s not the end of the world. This team is so young that there really is nowhere to go but up. I’m really looking forward to being able to say “I told you so” when Rich Rodriguez is leading this team to the Rose Bowl in the next few years. I hope you’ll be able to say the same.